Salvia palaestina: is a half – hardy perennial with a basal rosette of leaves, with multiple stems of pale lilac/white flowers in summer to autumn.
Salvia palaestina originating in the Middle East, is a very drought tolerant plant.
Flowers: are a falcate type with a long straight pale lilac or white hood. The 2 small white side lobes stand erect with the white middle lobe either hanging down ( after it has been pollinated) or cupped to hold a drop of moisture as well as acting as a landing place for bees and other pollinating insects.
A faint cream stain with markings shows the beeline, to guide the insects further into the corolla.
Flowers are held in a whorl of 4-6 flowers, with each whorl sitting in a saddle of 2 wide green bracts.
The inflorescence is multi stemmed, the flowers set in a candelabra style, often reaching 20-30cm long with regular intervals between each whorl. These are held well above the foliage to attract passing insects. Because of the many stems produced, it gives the impression of a very bushy plant.
Flowers appear in early summer, continuing through to autumn or until frosts appear.
Calyces: These are green, well ribbed with long clear or white hairs, each lobe is very pointed. Often upon exposure, the calyces will colour. When the flowers have finished, the calyces remain on the stem, turning a straw/ brown colour, until cut down in late autumn. Seed is held until shaken out when the stem is removed.
Leaves: form a basal rosette of large, long, lobed or semi pinnate leaves. These are either a mid green or a pale green/grey colour. The upper surface is fissured or bullate with small white hairs and again on the under surface where the veins are pronounced.
A good clump of leaves are produced to form a basal clump before sending up any flower stems. As the flower stems are produced the stem leaves become sessile forming bracts beneath the whorls of flower.
As the leaves age, they develop a pungent smell that ward off many foraging animals and sucking insects.
Salvia palaestina is a perfect plant to have in a dry garden in among other herbaceous perennials. It has adapted well to a gravel/ sandy garden with poor but well drained soil.
The grey clumps of leaves and white or pale lilac are great combination s in a white, grey or pastel themed garden. Plant with other perennials and small shrubs that enjoy the hard life during the summer season.
As the leaves develop a pungent smell, this helps to ward off rabbits, dear and other animals.
Being drought tolerant and frost hardy, it is tough, making an ideal plant for those exposed areas during the hot dry summer months.
The bullate texture of the leaves allows any moisture from fog, dew,or light precipitation to be channeled down the veins of the leaves to the stems and down towards the roots.
In autumn, after most of the flowers have finished, the seed collected, then it’s time to cut off old stems, and clean up around the basal area. Clear away any debris and mulch around the crown to keep warm during the cold months.
When the new shoots appear in spring, feed well and top up mulch to keep the root area cool during the hot summer months. Check regularly for snails and slugs. Often gravel mulch is used.
Propagation: usually by seed or from side shoots produced in early summer.
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